Russia and the United States are closer to “very limited and goal-oriented,” yet highly efficient cooperation when it comes to resolving the Syrian crisis and tackling global terrorism than it might seem, New York-based political analyst and consultant Nikolay Pakhomov wrote for the National Interest.
Men inspect a damaged site after double airstrikes on the rebel held Bab al-Nairab neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, August 27, 2016 © REUTERS/ Abdalrhman Ismail Turkey’s Syria Op ‘Could Play Major Role’ in Russia, US Securing Aleppo Truce In fact, President Vladimir Putin has told Bloomberg that “very difficult” talks, involving both countries, could soon transform into a deal on Syria. “I don’t rule out that we’ll be able to agree on something in the near future and present our agreements to the international community,” he said. Pakhomov described the chances that this will indeed take place as “higher than one could suppose” when looking at the overall state of US-Russian relations. “This cooperation, if it materializes, will be very limited and goal-oriented, but it can still deal a couple of decisive blows to [Daesh] and other terrorist organizations,” he added. Both countries will apparently benefit from the cooperation. For instance, the United States would have “a chance to contribute to Syria’s stabilization and the fight against Islamic extremism without direct engagement with Assad,” the analyst noted. Men inspect a damaged site after double airstrikes on the rebel held Bab al-Nairab neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, August 27, 2016 © REUTERS/ Abdalrhman Ismail Men inspect a damaged site after double airstrikes on the rebel held Bab al-Nairab neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, August 27, 2016 Policymakers in Washington have long publicly called for the Syrian president to resign. Working directly with Assad could be a tough sell at home, especially during the election season. Syrian army fighters during a fight in south-western Aleppo, Syria © Sputnik/ Michael Alaeddin Situation on the Ground in Syria ‘Has Begun to Resemble a Global War’ “One way for the United States to negotiate more efficiently and to find a way to cooperate with Russia in Syria, is to understand two simple, but crucially important facts: first, Russia’s resources are very limited, second, to a significant degree because of this, the situation in Syria for Russia is not a zero-sum game where Russia wins if the United States loses and vice versa,” Pakhomov added. For its part, Washington should not view Russia’s activities in the Middle East in terms of a zero-sum game, since Moscow’s goals in the region are not “anti-American” per se, as the analyst put it. “One can argue that the United States sees the region as its exclusive domain, where a Russian presence is inadmissible,” he said. If so, the US should ask itself what is more damaging to America’s security interests: “a Russian presence in the Middle East that stabilizes the region, or a Middle East in continuous turmoil, becoming more and more a hotbed of international terrorism?” A young Syrian shepherd leads his flock on June 14, 2016 as smoke billows from a farm following a reported airstrike in Sheifuniya, near the rebel-held town of Douma, east of the capital Damascus © AFP 2016/ Abd Doumany A young Syrian shepherd leads his flock on June 14, 2016 as smoke billows from a farm following a reported airstrike in Sheifuniya, near the rebel-held town of Douma, east of the capital Damascus Russian President Vladimir Putin (C-L) and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C-R) enter a hall to start their meeting with Russian and Turkish entrepreneurs in Konstantinovsky Palace outside Saint Petersburg on August 9, 2016 © AFP 2016/ ALEXANDER NEMENOV Russia–Iran-Turkey Axis: Common Interests and a Message to the West Russian leadership, he said, has pursued two objectives in the Middle East. It wants to fight international terrorism and reestablish itself in the region. In Pakhomov’s opinion, Moscow has already succeeded in raising its regional clout. However, Moscow does not intend to “police” the region, he added. Russia’s approach is “based on the understanding that the stronger the states in the region, the higher their capacity to deal with extremists and terrorists.” In this context, there are hardly any reasons for both countries not to cooperate on Syria. If Washington refrains from working with Moscow, it “will find itself under domestic and international pressure to address the Syrian situation more decisively, yet it will lack good options to do so. And Moscow will increasingly risk encountering regional challenges that it has very limited resources to effectively address,” the analyst observed. Should this happen, Russia will most likely scale down its military presence in the region. The United States, he added, will then remain “stuck there dealing with growing threats to its essential security interests.”
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